Bits and Bytes

The new standard in operating systems is rapidly transitioning to 64-bit, as opposed to 32-bit. The change is occuring on both the desktop and server-side. As with any major architecture change, there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way as new systems are integrated into existing infrastructures. There are a couple things to know when troubleshooting problems in 64 bit systems.

First of all, try not to get caught in the situation of incompatible software in the first place. Do your research. There are usually levels of compatability with software that has undergone QA testing. Some terms you might see are not compatible, not supported and supported. “Not supported” is where you are in a gray area of compatibility, which usually means that no major issues have been seen, but it has not been fully tested on the platform. It may very well work, but make sure you do extenstive testing before committing resources to implementing it.

Another thing to know about 64 bit systems when troubleshooting issues is the concept of WOW. And I don’t mean World of Warcraft… WOW is a newly reborn legacy term “Windows on Windows.” Originally, this was the compatibility layer for the then-new 32bit Windows (think NT 4.0) that would allow 16 bit applications to run – Windows 16 bit on Windows 32 bit. It has now been reborn into WOW64 – Windows 32 bit on Windows 64 bit.

Basically, WOW64 allows 32 bit applications to have resources to run properly. If you look in the %systemroot% folder, you will see a System32 and a SysWOW64 folder. The latter contains the libraries for 32 bit applications. Understanding that 32 bit applications use the WOW64 structure can solve lots of headaches. For instance, the ODBC configuration tool that is opened in the Control Panels administrative tools points to the 64 bit version of the utility. If you have a 32 bit application that is trying to use an ODBC connection, you must manually open the utility in the SysWOW64 folder to configure the ODBC connection for 32 bit.

When troubleshooting issues on a 64 bit system, never rule out a conflict between a 32 bit program on a 64 bit system. Knowing that Windows has a backwards compatability system can aid in that troubleshooting – keep an eye out for the “WOW.” Keep it in mind when those wierd issues creep up.

Mike Peterson
Support Engineer
ImageSource, Inc.

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